Are EVs Really Cheaper 3-6X Cheaper if You Can’t Charge at Home?
With each new wave of surging prices in fossil fuels, the questioning of our economic system based on burning them gets a little louder. That’s a good sign and I hope it motivates more people to act! The thing we can all do to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is to electrify our big purchases in the home, for transportation, even at work. Electric Vehicles (EVs) are a big component step in this process! And with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the oil majors extracting more profits than ever from all of us, there’s a surge of interest in EVs…so time to keep sharing more stories and truths about the experience!
New Report Claims Driving an EV is 3–6X Cheaper
Zero Emission Transportation Association’s (ZETA) released a new report this month to highlight the affordability of driving an EV vs an internal combustion engine. The analysis looked at US average and state electricity and gasoline prices to complete the analysis and claims “For each of these vehicles and in all of the states that ZETA analyzed, these vehicles’ EV analogues are far cheaper to drive per mile.”
EV Life is Different Without a Garage — and Media Should Cover That
As interest surges in EVs, we need to support people to embrace this new technology. We do a massive disservice to the movement to electrify if we set expectations for people that turn into disappointment. Today, I want to put a finer point of the cost of charging that distinguishes people who have off-street parking (eg driveway or garage) and those who don’t. I don’t have a place to park my EV and have found that most of what is presented in the media assumes that the EV owner does have a garage and can easily charge at home.
According to the American Housing Survey, 33% of occupied homes in the US do not have off-street parking, representing millions of people who will have an entirely different charging experience than what is presented in the mainstream. The situation is well summarized by a recent report by NREL looking at the future of EV charging based on residential parking and electrical availability :
“The current foundation of U.S. charging infrastructure has been built upon home charging at residential locations, where vehicles tend to be parked for long durations overnight. Looking forward, there is uncertainty about how effectively home charging can scale as the primary charging location for electric vehicle owners. As the electric vehicle market expands beyond early adopters (typically high-income, single-family homes that have access to off-street parking) to mainstream consumers, planners must consider developing charging infrastructure solutions for households without consistent access to
overnight home charging.”
So if you don’t fit the standard early adopter profile, what you see in the media, may not apply to you. And for people without off-street parking, charging costs can be significantly different.
EVs are Cheaper…But Maybe Not for Trucks & SUVs On Public Chargers in CA!
While I don’t know EV charging rates across the entire US, I have done a lot of charging in California and can say that the rates used in the report do not reflect public DC fast charging costs. I shared a year’s worth of fast charging data back in January, and the rates I saw across three fast charging networks were 35–110% higher than the cost of EV “fuel” used in the report!!
For my car (Chevy Bolt) or the Tesla Model 3, you would save money vs the ICE vehicles in the report while using any of the public fast charging networks. But the larger vehicles have less savings, even possibly no savings if charging on EVGo. The larger vehicles are heavier and use more electricity per mile, offsetting the savings from the electricity.
To see the impact of public charger costs in California vs home electricity charging costs, below is a chart comparing the report data and my data, applied to each vehicle. There are savings, just not as dramatic as presented by ZETA. This implies that, especially for larger vehicle types, you need to have at-home charging (preferably with solar!) to save more money. On smaller cars, this data shows it can be 2.7X more expensive to drive a gasoline vehicle, but savings can be much smaller or non-existent for larger vehicles.
Thanks to ZETA for motivating me to dive into this. On reflection, a few concluding thoughts:
- Even though it is a little harder without a garage, I still strongly recommend an EV — they are just flat out more fun to drive and without maintenance hassle!
- The nuance of charging and driving an EV still requires careful thought if you are looking at this as an economic decision. Other factors may help you make the decision for benefits beyond economics, including the comfort, joy, and contribution to cleaner air and a healthier planet.
- Charging infrastructure matters — The Biden administration plans for a rollout of 500k chargers. Hopefully that will also lead to business models that create lower charging cost solutions.
- Planners on a municipal, regional, and national level must take into account the needs to evolve the charging infrastructure to support fair and equitable access to electrical fueling stations.
Have questions, comments, feedback? Please leave me a comment!